Alice B. Toklas brownies notwithstanding, the breakout social lubricant of choice for entertaining in the late 1960s was arguably the refreshing fruit and red wine punch known as sangria. It had been—sort of—introduced to America at the 1964 New York City World’s Fair at the Spanish Pavilion as a way to showcase the country’s wines and soon spread across this nation, where it was all but de rigueur at any summertime patio party worth its paper lanterns.
Of course, sangria wasn’t new, it was simply enjoying its highwater mark. Red wine punches with gory names had been around for centuries. The word sangria comes from the Spanish and Portuguese for “bloodletting” and even before it became a regional favorite in Iberia there were red wine drinks in the Americas called sangarees (same blood-red derivation). What the ’60s brought to the drink was chicness and the means to keep it cold. That, coupled with its ease in serving—you mix pitchers of the stuff well in advance—make it perfect for summertime entertaining.
And advance preparation is the key to any sangria no matter what the ingredients. Start mixing the day before the festivities to let all the components blend. The base is traditionally Garnacha (Grenache) or Tempranillo, but failing that choose a red wine with lots of fruit notes. Start by pouring a 750-milliliter bottle in a large pitcher. Drop in the fruits of your choice. Oranges, lemons and limes are typical, but also tap any berries or pitted fruit that are in season. (You could buy premixed sangrias, but what’s the fun in that? Plus they almost invariably leave out some key ingredients, leaving your punch without any punch.) Spanish brandy is almost a no-brainer, but also consider Port, Sherry and other brandies (2 oz.). To this add triple sec, an orange liqueur that will help meld divergent flavors (2 oz.). Other possible additions are a cup of one or more citrus juices.
Now hide it from yourself in a refrigerator for a day. At party time, pour the punch into a glass to about three-quarters full (ice is optional). Fill the rest with club soda and stir. If a guest asks for 7-Up in place of seltzer, don’t condemn him for a lout. That’s what they do in Spain.